Collectables: The rise and rise of 'dairyana'

PUBLISHED: 15:33 18 December 2017

Some of the collectable milk bottles (not with original contents!).

Some of the collectable milk bottles (not with original contents!).


Mike Hicks on the growing interest in old milk bottles.

Were you aware that there is a great deal of interest in collecting old milk bottles? Such is the passion for these items that there is even a publication devoted to those people sourcing unusual items to add to their collection, The Milk Bottle News. This particular publication was one of those used in the television programme Have I Got News For You? as being their magazine of the week.

The first issue was published in 1984 by Mike Hull and Margaret Barber when they realised that collecting milk bottles had suddenly become respectable. Evidently bottles can be traced back to the 1880s when these glass containers started being used for milk deliveries, not just in this country but around the world.

Each country seems to have its own design, shape and cap closures. It is interesting to see how each country had its own character built into the bottle; it is said that the UK bottle was somewhat reserved, a no-nonsense shape with a straightforward cardboard disc or foil cap as a seal, whereas the French were generally a heavy conical shape with glass stopper and stylised lettering painted on the side, which can be aptly described as “chic” – aah well.. they were French! As for America, well apparently these are widely varied, most of the designs were bold with colourful lettering and captions and weird and wonderful shapes such as bottles with a bulb in the neck to highlight the cream.

Milk bottles were the perfect medium for advertising and many collectors go for this facet of the hobby alone. They were not necessarily used just for advertising the milk but many other products and businesses as well.

So, where do you find them? Well, I suppose the ideal place would be old bottle dumps and waste tips whereby people can scavenge through and find these. Bottle Fairs are another place where they can be purchased and you could become a member of a bottle collecting club.

Devotees take interest in milk floats and carts, in fact, anything connected with the “white stuff”.

How many of you kept the cardboard caps or silver tops?... exactly! That is why they are rare and very much sought-after world wide.

Even advertising material such as bus and train tickets featuring dairies and dairy products are collected.

As to prices... for the bottles themselves, these can vary to anything from £1-£30. Typically a Disney bottle will make around £8 each; old printed Co-op bottles around £20 each; wartime bottles the same price. Kilner (better known for their preserve jars) “plinth” bottles are very unusual in design and can make around £20 apiece.

Dairyana lives!

Mike Hicks runs Stalham Antique Gallery at 29 High Street, Stalham (NR12 9AH). You can contact Mike on 01692 580636 or

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